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Corporate Protectionism

Sometimes I read something so jaw-dropping, so unbelievable that I can’t even fathom that someone put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard or formed their lips to utter certain words much less formulate certain thoughts.

What prompted this latest episode of outraged disbelief? I was reading Forbes magazine (I think it’s a good idea to check up on the latest mischief of the Masters of the Universe once in a while) and I came across this article talking about how xenophobia is akin to racism.

Now what did this Great White Man mean by xenophobia? He was referring to American protectionism. Not the kind of American protectionism where the government actually looks out for the welfare of its citizens, that’s called a fantasy. No, the kind of American protectionism Mr. Master of the Universe was referring to was trade protectionism --- the kind where products made outside the U.S. are taxed at a higher rate than those made within the U.S., or where companies doing business using foreign labor aren’t given as many tax breaks as those using U.S. labor.

The author of this particular article took the position that people who believed in American trade protectionism were just as bad as racists because they are discriminating against companies for using people from other countries. He had the nerve to say (or write, I mean) that refusing to do business with companies that exploit (I mean employ) foreign workers working in foreign countries was like refusing to hire Black people. Let me repeat that: he said that treating companies with outsourced foreign employees differently from companies with American workforces was as morally reprehensible as treating people of color differently than white people.

The three main arguments this racially sensitive kinder capitalist raised in support of his thesis that trade protectionism is like racism were that: (1) both “run roughshod” over the rights of others in their quests to favor one group over another; (2) whether companies employ a worker in Detroit, Michigan or Cuidad Juarez, Mexico the rest of us “aren’t footing the bill” which makes it “none of our business”; and (3) foreign workers for U.S. corporations have a right to earn a living just like Americans and protectionist trade policies interfere with those rights just like “white only” policies prevent Black people from the full enjoyment of their human rights.

Exactly how is spending U.S. dollars in the U.S. on U.S. workers’ wages running “roughshod” over non-U.S. workers? Exactly how is it that U.S. taxpayers support corporate welfare at unprecedented levels by our tax dollars but aren’t “footing the bill” for outsourced jobs? Exactly how is it that these same corporate welfare recipients taking our tax dollars with one hand and our jobs with the other is none of our business? And exactly how is it that foreign workers’ human rights somehow trump those of American workers?

But all this is mere misdirection. In his thinly-veiled attempt to detract attention from the truly morally reprehensible conduct of American corporations taking living wage jobs from Americans and trading them for starvation wage jobs for non-Americans, this author had the nerve to invoke the evil of racism as a smoke screen. Of course, he failed to mention that these same beneficent corporate employers tend to destroy the environment and snatch the natural resources of the countries on whose citizens they bestow jobs. And he conveniently omitted the part about how these foreign workers are paid starvation wages for endless toil and are likely to be Third World people of color who have been exploited by people of pallor for the last few hundred years or so.

The real issue, though, is how dare this corporate apologist compare racism with trade policies that in some small measure reduce the gargantuan profits American corporations reap from shafting American workers? How dare this white man even raise the specter of racism in the same article as one discussing trade issues --- particularly when he weighs in not on the side of the American worker who could legitimately use the analogy of racism in describing their disparate treatment but on the side of the corporate perpetrators? How dare this hack try to moralize about behavior on the part of American corporations that is amoral in its best light and immoral in its worst.

But isn’t that just like a Master of the Universe? Invent a phenomenon, whether it is racism or corporate outsourcing, and then co-opt the language of his detractors in explaining away his culpability. Sort of like reverse discrimination, or race-neutral admission policies, or making affirmative action illegal. Gee, I guess it’s sort of like angry corporation syndrome instead of angry white male syndrome. Maybe we should apply a little affirmative action for corporations and make it all better. Oh I forgot, we already do that. It’s called corporate protectionism.

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